Friday, 3 April 2020

Things can only get better

Things can only get better

You are going to hate me for planting this bug in your brain. Earlier in the week I was chatting with the editor of one of our prestigious country magazines; I am going to spare you the name of the publication because it seems the editor's favourite band is so at odds with the mojo of his magazine. 'Yes,' he said, 'this whole Covid thing put me in mind of a Smiths song.' He did tell me which one but really? The Smiths? If you weren't depressed enough already ........

D:Ream - Things Can Only Get Better (1993) (Official Video)
D:Ream - Things Can Only Get Better (1993) (Official Video) or New Labour style 1997.

Now, I couldn't counter at the time, but that evening Tony Blair popped up on the news. Before I go on has anyone else noticed our ex-Prime Ministers' terrible teeth? Has he not heard of a hygienist or whitening toothpaste?

But I digress because at that moment I was instantly transported back to 1997. The song that accompanied every press conference, battle bus and New Labour occasion: Things Can Only Get Better by Northern Irish band D:Ream. Yes, it is the song you can't unhear. Sorry. But is does beg the question, can things only get better for the angling industry?

I think the simple answer is yes for some and no for others. The foot and mouth crisis of 2001 gives us a template for the no side of the equation. Many rural businesses, including the self-employed, live life on a financial knife edge. The March-June period is critical in providing two thirds of annual income, plus most of the forward bookings for later in the season. We are, in many respects, like squirrels: our winter hoard of nuts is all but depleted by now so we need the spring.

Frankly, Covid could not have come at a worse time. It will wipe out entire businesses who will simply never open again. Others will limp on before giving up the unequal struggle. Yes, some will survive but unlike foot and mouth which was highly regional in its impact Covid is not only nationwide but international. It is hard to see anyone jumping on a plane anytime soon for the sheer pleasure of travel.

So, how will the businesses that survive, survive? Well, it will be to a large extent down to the kindness and loyalty of regular customers. Hatch, a US emagazine have published a great article suggesting the ways in which we can all help the businesses we value to get them through this.

Gift cards or vouchers are effectively cash in the bank today, a lifeline by any measure and with little risk to you paying by credit card. Likewise, online orders for anything from a spool of nylon to the fanciest waders will shift expensive inventory that would have been ordered long before we ever first heard the word coronavirus. Or if your local shop doesn't do internet sales maybe a call or email?

Stillwaters, guides and instructors are really exposed at times like this; they rarely ask for payment upfront and for perfectly understandable reasons bookings have melted away like snow in the spring. That said I've heard heart-warming stories of people who have been paid anyway or been told to keep the deposit with no further obligation. At the very worst, do ask for a reschedule rather than a refund. Cashflow is king whether you are a one-man band or a multi-billion-pound corporation.

And do consider booking or rescheduling for later in the season if government restrictions allow; don't just give up on 2020. A bit of income this year will make all the difference. I know you'll be gutted to miss out on the Mayfly should the worst (in a fishing sense) happen but (maybe this is the only silver-lining of Covid) you'll discover why us locals delight in summer and autumn on the river.

Life of a River Keeper in the Time of Covid
Rob Breeding, who writes the Montana Hook and Bullet News, has come up with what is, for me at least, the quote of the entire Covid-19 crisis so far amongst his bulletins about the delay to the grizzly bear hunting season (too much snow in case you ask) and recipes for feral pig:

Fly fishing was social distancing before social distancing was cool.

I'm not sure if this makes us sound cool or downright anti-social but for river keepers, who rarely see a living soul outside the fishing season, it is a reality of life that may continue for a while as yet. At Bullington Manor our Simon Fields continues as ever: trees fall, weeds grow and on a frosty morning there is no excuse for anything other than a damn good bonfire.

Our Stockbridge

I'll fancy Stockbridge has never seen so few cars since ... well, the invention of the motor car. Normally the locals vent and fume about the lack of parking, furious that they can't park within 20 yards of their favoured spot.

Now? Take you pick, mate. But for all that our local town keeps going. As I have written before we are fortunate to have all the essentials to sustain a life. Robinson's the butcher has a vast array of meat; I suspect their wholesale business to pubs and the like has dried up so plenty of the famous sausages to be had. 

I saw Beccy the greengrocer flaked out on an upturned crate; she has never been so busy. The Co-op has all the essentials with probably the most eclectic queue of people you'll see anywhere. Thyme & Tides has delicatessen treats and Purbani are open for Indian takeaways six nights a week.

But other than these it is so sad to see everything shuttered in the week when the High Street should be buzzing with Easter trippers and the first fly fishers of the season. 

I try to keep the words of King Solomon in mind - this, too, shall pass - but it doesn't make the scene any less desolate.

Manna from heaven

Not everyone is in favour of stocking; some people prefer their fishing wild often citing the wildernesses around the world as bastions of the creed. This recent press release from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) proves that what you see is not always what you get:

Why Utah Drops Fish Out Of Airplanes Into Their Mountain Lakes
Why Utah Drops Fish Out Of Airplanes Into Their Mountain Lakes
"Spring stockings will include 1.68 million brown trout, 424,860 rainbow trout, and 156,970 brook trout. Approximately 98,000 two-year-old brown trout 13-14 inches in length are included in the brown trout total. Nearly 1.6 million yearling lake trout, steelhead, landlocked salmon, splake and coho salmon will be also be stocked by DEC this spring to provide exciting angling opportunities over the next several years. Almost 307,000 brook trout fingerlings will be stocked in more than 300 Adirondack lakes and ponds this spring and fall to provide unique angling opportunities for future years."

How do you deal with such huge numbers? Well, this is how.

Watch CHALK for free (well, almost)

FishingTV are currently running a free trial which allows you to watch CHALK the feature film for just a few pennies. Here is the link..... 

In case you are not familiar with FishingTV it is a video-on-demand platform offering access to professionally produced fishing TV shows and films. The platform is available on a SmartTV, Smartphone and tablets, and a range of set-top boxes.

It works on all these SmartTVs: Samsung, Panasonic, Sony, LG, Phillips as well as for Amazon FireTV Stick, Apple TV, Roku and EETV. You can also download the app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store. Search in the Sports section.


It's back! As we are now into British Summer Time a few questions as to its origin and practice. As ever, it is all just for fun with the answers at the bottom of the page.
1)      In which year was British Summer Time first introduced?
2)      What do the initials CEST stand for?
3)      How many times zones are there across the EU?

Have a good weekend.

PS Charles and I will be recording a special edition of The Fishing Cast on Monday: How to go fishing when you can't go fishing. It will be available from 6pm via this link and I'll send a tickler as well.

Best wishes,
Simon Signature    
Founder & Managing Director


1)      1916
2)      Central European Summer Time, the EU alignment of daylight saving since 1995.
3)      Three. Western, Central and Eastern Time.

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